What is your Microbiome?
Your gut is home to countless friendly bacteria and fungi- together called the gut microbiome. In fact, the sheer number of these microorganisms far exceeds the total number of your own body cells. The percentage of the healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the average gut is 85% and 15% respectively. If this balance gets disturbed, you may experience countless health issues, not just something like diarrhea.
Three Things That Affect Gut Health
There are a lot of modifiable factors that put the stability of your gut microbiota at risk of a microbiome imbalance. Some of these factors include:
Excessive use of antibiotics: Antibiotics are generally meant to target the disease-causing organisms but they cause a lot of collateral damage too. The longer or more frequent you use an antibiotic, the more damaged your gut bacteria balance becomes. Almost all of the commonly used antibiotics cause a drastic decline in the number of the good gut bacteria.
What can make things worse is the fact that repeated or long-term use of these antibiotics shifts the balance of gut microbiota in the favor of disease-causing bacteria. Researchers have found that most of the commonly used antibiotics cause an increase in the population of C. difficle and Candia Albicans, both of which are classified as bad gut bacteria.
Your gut health is what you eat: “You are what you eat” does not only apply to your skin health or your heart health alone, it applies to your gut health too. Recent changes in the dietary habits, like an increase of refined sugar may jeopardize your gut microbiome balance.
Researchers have found that individuals eating a diet rich in fats and refined sugar have far fewer number of Bifidobacteria (prebiotic good bacteria) and increased levels of C. difficle and C. perfringens (pathogens).
Stress damages your gut health: Stress causes an imbalance in the “brain-gut axis”, which plays a pivotal role in maintaining great gut health. It is no surprise that conditions associated with microbiome instability- like IBS and Crohn’s- are more common among stressed out individuals. In a recent study in 2015, Canadian researchers even found that people with IBS were twice as likely to have generalized anxiety disorders further supporting the gut-brain connection.
The science suggests great gut health means making the right dietary choices, decreasing any dependence upon antibiotics, and reducing stress in your life where you can. Eating right and staying active is a long standing good health trope, but evidence suggests it's not only good for you, but good for good gut bacteria that make up 85% of your microbiome.
Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options.
Diet-Induced Dysbiosis of the Intestinal Microbiota and the Effects on Immunity and Disease
Effects of treatment with antimicrobial agents on the human colonic microflora
Robust Association Between Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.